China Movie Report: 5 To Be Screened Works Are All Major Productions, Why Are Liu Haoran’s Resources So Good?

With the recent announcement of commemoration film 1921, there has been once again, a lot of attention on Liu Haoran’s resources at a very young age (for a film actor).

As Wanda Films and other accounts recently posted, Haoran now has five films in his stash, and it’s an impressive list, as all five would be considered “mainstream” films (projects by well known names in the industry that have generated a lot of attention) and covers all three of commercial, art (note that here it would mean more drama/story-centric), and commemoration films*. It also includes both big/well known directors (Chen Kaige, Huang Jianxin, Diao Yinan – executive producers matter greatly for rookie director films), well known new generation directors (Chen Sicheng), and rookie directors (Zhang Ji).

*T/N: For those who are wondering why commemoration films are considered a good resource – it means you’re considered part of the film circle, especially if you land a lead/important role, there’s a reason why you’re seeing the same big names over and over for these type of projects as it’s more about personal network than agents/companies (1921 is slightly different as it will have a considerably younger cast, but point still stands). Furthermore, commemoration films – especially the ones deemed important by the government and given the most important slots, such as National Day, will be seen by everyone in the industry, regardless of how it does box office wise, so it’s considered great exposure.

Because of the buzz, 1905 the Movie Network (the online platform for CCTV6, which is the official state-backed Movie Channel) has posted a new article titled, “5 Works To Be Screened Are All Major Productions, Why Are Liu Haoran’s Resources So Good?”.

This is a question that’s been circling around Haoran since his “official” debut in the industry in 2015 (you can read more in the megapost here), since he’s one of the very rare few who debuted in the film industry and has continued to thrive there at a considerably younger age than most. As mentioned before, the film industry is notoriously difficult to enter, especially for young actors, which is why film resources are considered especially valuable, and why Haoran is considered to have one of the highest starting points possible for a male actor.

The 1905 article can be seen as a weigh-in from a prominent film industry media voice that, yes, Haoran’s resources have been impressive, but he’s also lived up to each and every one of the opportunities he’s gotten, and also a good look-back as he transitions to a full-time actor now.

I also translated a great fan post in response to the article at the end of this, as it’s a fantastic summary of there being more to the so-called “great resources” in other people’s eyes. As Haoran put it, “every role I get is an audition for the next”.

(Original article released 7.9.20)

Recently, the Liu Haoran who rarely posts on Weibo updated. With the topic #gaokao (college entrance exams) geography”, he asked, “Want to climb Pingdingshan with me?

Netizens left comments on his post, wanting to get some of the good student’s luck and fortune rubbed off on them. After all, this actor who was born in 1997, wasn’t just number one in both his major and academics for the Central Academy of Drama for his year, he’s also beloved by big directors.

Including the just announced 1921, through today, Liu Haoran now has five movies waiting to be screened.

Aside from 1921, where he’s working with well known directors Huang Jianxin and Zheng Dasheng, Detective Chinatown 3, which was originally slated to premiere during Chinese New Year’s this year, is Liu Haoran’s nth time working with Chen Sicheng and Wang Baoqiang. Flowers Bloom In the Ashes sees him working with director Chen Kaige again after My People, My Country. And the recent My Hometown and I gathered together Zhang Yimou, Ning Hao, Xu Zheng, Chen Sicheng, Wu Jing, Ge You, Huang Bo, and many other A-listers (note: Zhang Yimou is the executive producer for the film, there will be 5 parts in total. Haoran worked with Huang Bo and Wang Baoqiang for Chen Sicheng’s part).

At first glance, it’s absolutely star-studded. First-class (production) teams and lineups, impressive names in those who he’s working with. Liu Haoran, why are his resources so good?

An Old Head On Young Shoulders

The public’s most initial impression of Liu Haoran probably started from Beijing Love Story.

The Liu Haoran who was then a freshman at the secondary school of the Beijing Dance Academy met Chen Sicheng and Tong Liya, who came to watch over auditions. Chen Sicheng had the selected few sit in a circle, and asked the girls present to select who they liked the most. The majority all chose the Liu Haoran, whose tiger tooth would peek out when he smiled.

Just like that, the youth Song Ge who would experience first love in the film had its actor. Though the role wasn’t difficult, Liu Horan’s natural youthful air gave the character more room for interpretation.

The hesitation as a result of hidden secrets, the eye movement as the heart skips a beat, the fearlessness of the youthful air – they all contributed to Song Ge becoming the Itsuki Fujii* hidden in the gaps of time and the dreams of audiences.

*T/N: Seems to be a reference to the main character in Shunji Iwai’s 1995 film Love Letter, which is beloved in China

In the “era of white clothes fluttering” (reference to the 1996 song by Gao Xiaosong that became one of the most popular campus anthems among youths), the free and happy youth is undoubtedly one of everyone’s most treasured memories. The smile that bloomed on his face, the gentleness and brightness that couldn’t be hidden – it was as if a pebble landed in the middle of the quiet lake, causing ripples to rise with the heartbeat.

Youthful air is often considered a high form of praise for someone.

Intelligent, perceptive, the innocence of a child. And Liu Haoran, through this youthful air, has won a number of good roles. Detective Chinatown‘s Qin Feng – as the name suggests, a genius at cracking cases, someone who naturally brings the wind as they walk. A pair of wide eyes, paired with the simplicity that comes with his stuttering, the youth detective who can be seen as both good and bad was brought to life in front of audiences.

With You‘s Yu Huai, is the school senior next door who has great grades and is the best at basketball. With a smile, he can call out the sun, chasing away the dark clouds.

Legend of the Demon Cat‘s Bai Long added a level of complexity to the original youthful air. The ethereal and unscrupulous air in the opening scene (for Bai Long), the lofty attitude that leaked out in the conversation with Yang Guifei, the heart-stricken desolation when he gave his life to Yang Guifei – these all allowed this unique youth who experienced lots of sufferings and difficulties to come to life. Chen Kaige said, “When I see Liu Haoran, he gives off a really fresh and pure energy. You’ll like him when you see him. This spirit fits Bai Long well.”

Even as people admire this “naturally carved”, neither arrogant nor humble youthful air (attitude is just the right amount in between), Liu Haoran himself believes that there’s an “old spirit” that lives within. “I hope I can quickly become a middle-aged uncle. To some degree, I hope I can become uglier, or rougher.”

Clear-Headedness

Becoming a middle-aged uncle seems to have always been a long-cherished wish of Liu Haoran’s. The him who grew up in a family with a strict father and a kind-hearted mother has never been spoiled. His self-disciplined father taught him to learn how to remain clear-headed.

Remaining clear-headed and single-minded, focusing on acting.

During a media interview, Liu Haoran once expressed that he likes the Ha Jung-woo, Song Kang-ho type of actors where they may not be considered to be incredibly good looking, but become “possessed by a spirit” when they act. They become their characters, and this is what Liu Haoran admires the most.

Not caring about appearances, steadfastly honing acting skills, and having the unique mesmerizing charisma of an actor at any age, this is what attracts Liu Haoran the most. “I have the appearance of an ordinary person, after all. There are so many good looking people around me. (I) definitely wouldn’t be considered ugly, but don’t think I’m particularly handsome either.”

Hence, the Liu Haoran captured on camera is usually dressed very casually. In the winter, his Central Academy of Drama coat is his go-to, and when it started falling apart, it became a green (technically blue) coat. In the summer, it’s just t-shirt and shorts, no particular consideration for fashion.

But towards his roles, he is very strict (on himself) and focused. When filming Detective Chinatown 1, he was preparing for the gaokao (colelge entrance exams). The Liu Haoran who was sweating up a storm during filming would be studying his role and finding time to study. After returning to China when filming was completed, Liu Haoran was admitted into the Central Academy of Drama as the number one in both his major (performance) and academics.

During the of filming Detective Chinatown 2, there was a scene where he had to run in 40 degree Celsius weather. Before the director called “cut”, he ran numerous times. When he was being considered for Legend of the Demon Cat, he met with director Chen Kaige, who told him that he hoped he could be thinner, and that he should study Sean Penn films to understand Bai Long’s stubborn personality and toughness better.

When Liu Haoran went home, he worked out every day, and in a short span of time, lost 20 jin (12 kg).

During that period, he also tracked down many Sean Penn films, including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Casualties of War, and studied each of them, “As I watched the movies, when I got to a particular scene, I would suddenly pause, rewind, and study each of the actors in that particular scene. Their gazes, their expressions, the way they spoke. I’d think about whether I could use these in my own acting.”

Pausing

Before filming Detective Chinatown 3, Liu Haoran gave himself a break.

To adjust his body condition, relieve stress. When he was free, he’d follow Chen Sicheng around with a pen and notepad, to observe how a director holds actor auditions. When asked about this type of break, Liu Haoran said he’s “accumulating energy”. In a previous interview with the China Film Report, he said that he’s too young, that he doesn’t have the strength to constantly give/produce.

“An actor’s job is not a 9 to 5. There are no time or location constraints. Maybe you begin your work at 9am today and will be working until 9pm tomorrow. As my teacher always told me, an actor is also an athlete. We must know when to stop. You need to be in great shape and health to support your work, so I also need time to regulate my condition.”

“It’s like how a water reservoir may be able to support the population of a whole city, where you can leave your faucet on constantly. But I’m still a little pond. I don’t have the capacity to constantly produce. I feel that there will be a day where I have nothing left. So before that time comes, I want to quiet down to accumulate energy.”

The Liu Haoran on break will watch movies, put together Lego models, and get his driver’s license and learn how to drive like other people his age. He feels that aside from filming, stepping away from the crowds and the eye of the public to adjust his mindset is the better option.

Talented, hard working, clear-headed, knowing when to stop. This is maybe why so many big name directors favor Liu Haoran.

Being Yourself

Liu Haoran doesn’t seem to have a lot of ambition.

He speaks very straight forwardly, doesn’t update often on Weibo or other social media platforms, doesn’t do things to “attract fans”, and doesn’t even participate in livestreams.

Focusing on performance, and separating personal life from acting – that is one of the key reasons he idolizes actor Daniel Day-Lewis. And in this area, Liu Haoran has always persisted, “This road that I’ve walked, I’ve acted each of my roles seriously, and haven’t disappointed them (the roles). None of the roles have let me down either.”

“The world is constantly changing, maybe after some time, there will be a change in film as an art form, or maybe it’ll be replaced by something new.”

“Every project that I’ve been in, whether it’s The Founding of An Army, Legend of the Demon Cat, or Detective Chinatown, they all added a different color to my life. Even if many years pass and people no longer remember who Liu Haoran is, as long as they can think of a role that he once played, that’s enough for me.”

“I’m trying out different roles right now. Maybe after some time, I’ll experiment with a different industry, a different field. Maybe I’ll no longer be acting.”

Being blunt, bravely trying new things, but always being very aware of what he wants at each stage. Yes, that’s Liu Haoran.

(Fan Response by 阴天不打)

After reading 1905 The Movie Platform’s article on “Why Are Liu Haoran’s Resources So Good?”, suddenly had some thoughts. Maybe within fan circles, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t think his resources are good. There are even those who make jealous comments and call him a 资源咖 (a fan circle term used to describe an actor with good resources, often in a mocking manner, implying that they don’t deserve their good resources or that they only have good resources because of strong backing). as a way to relieve their frustration. This is how they deny someone’s accomplishments and hard work.

But if you look at Liu Haoran’s resources, every part of it is clear. There is a head, a tail, and a continuation* (T/N: meaning we can clearly track how Haoran’s resources are born from each previous work). Many of the directors he’s worked with are ones he’s collaborated with two or three times. This is an acknowledgement of his acting, a form of praise on how well he completes his performances. He has not let down his roles, every one of them has shined, and are often mentioned even after years have passed. This is the duty of an actor, and even more so, it’s the honor of being an actor.

If you go into detail, open casting (auditions that are open to everyone) got him a role in Beijing Love Story, where he completed his very first role in Song Ge. Because he did well as Song Ge, director Chen Sicheng casted him for Detective Chinatown, and then Detective Chinatown 2 and 3. And what he faced was the gaze of an audience of millions.

He won the role of Bai Long through auditions and joined Legend of the Demon Cat. Because of Bai Long, he won the admiration of director Chen Kaige, and was the lead of his part in My People My Country. And they worked together again in a third collaboration with Flowers Bloom In the Ashes.

Around the same time as Bai Long, he was casted for director Andrew Lau’s The Founding of An Army. In an ensemble cast, his (portrayal of) young general Su Yu shone brightly. And now we have director Huang Jianxin’s 1921 (note: this is Haoran’s fourth time working with Huang Jianxin now – Huang Jianxin also was executive producer for The Founding of An Army and My People My Country).

Every project has been completed in a steadfast manner, every role has made its mark. This (high) rate of resource completion (going back to the fact that Haoran has multiple representative roles at the age of 22 and that his performances have been well received), directors can see it clearly. Why wouldn’t they value him?

This is the secret of great resources. Liu Haoran, please continue to work hard, continue to win more great roles, and get more great resources.

Birthday fanart by 一团丢, which consists of all Haoran’s roles through October 2019 (newer ones are “younger”) – Haoran mentioned that he saw this when browsing on Weibo and likes it a lot

2 thoughts on “China Movie Report: 5 To Be Screened Works Are All Major Productions, Why Are Liu Haoran’s Resources So Good?

  1. Loved his acting in With You and from there I saw Detective Chinatown 1 & 2. Then I watched his first movie and became his fan. In every role that he has played, he has lived his characters. He became those persons. For me it was like I wasn’t watching Liu Haoran but his characters and that’s what I want from a movie. He is a great actor and though I want to watch his every work there are less movies that have English Subs. I want to travel to China just to meet him someday and tell him as an Indian woman, he has been a great inspiration for me.

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